Dumb Things Tourists Did This Week
This has been a banner week for stupid tourist stunts, and we're calling them out. From putting a wild animal into a hatchback to defacing precious natural wonders, here's what the unenlightened have been up to in some of our favorite places to visit:
1. Two tourists in Yellowstone National Park put a baby bison in the back of their SUV because it "looked cold."
What more can we even say about this? Not kidnapping wildlife to "rescue" it because you think you know more than Yellowstone park rangers would be a good start. It's not only dangerous; it's illegal. Adding to the ignorance, the high was 50 degrees that day. Not exactly an icy tundra. Because of these two geniuses, the baby bison later died.
The Washington Post reported: “Park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd. These efforts failed. The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway.”
2. Vanessa Hudgens agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for carving a heart into a red rock wall in Sedona, Arizona—and then Instagramming it.
Frankly, we expected more of actress Hudgens, who seems like a nice young woman. What makes the defacing more obnoxious is the heart contained the names "Vanessa" and "Austin"—a.k.a. Hudgens and her boyfriend, actor Austin Butler.
There are no real winners here except Hudgens's Instagram followers, who alerted the media, causing the authorities to get involved. They issued her a citation for "a misdemeanor count of damaging a natural feature on U.S. Forest Service land," according to the Associated Press, hence the fine of $1K. Good on ya, Vanessa fans.
3. A dude in Portugal smashed a 126-year-old statue after climbing it...to take a selfie.
We're shaking our heads right now. Which is more than we can say for poor Dom Sebastiao, a 16th-century king of Portugal, whose statue was smashed to pieces when a tourist allegedly tried to scale it and snap a photo, Artnet News reported. The statue is in Lisbon's Rossio train station, and the suspect "attempted to flee." Big surprise.
Check out the pre-smashing and post-smashing photos here. They will make you very sad. We won't speculate on whether a selfie stick was used, but let's just all agree not to use selfie sticks while we're around priceless artwork...or maybe ever.
Baker City, Oregon, Is in the Lead in Our Coolest Small Town in America Contest
We love the way Baker City, Oregon, has jumped to the head of our Coolest Small Towns contest. Of course, there are weeks remaining until our 11th annual Coolest Small Town in America contest closes (at 11:59 p.m. on June 6), but we're impressed that Baker City (bordered by the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains in northeast Oregon at the intersection of three Oregon Scenic Byways) has grabbed more than 40 percent of all votes so far to take a commanding lead. Right behind Baker City in early voting, Sykesville, Maryland, has gotten our attention with more than 27 percent of all votes. But we're eager to see how each of our 15 finalists fares in their quest to take the title of coolest. Check out all 15 finalists and vote for your favorite HERE.
See the Windy City For Free! Explore Chicago With This Exclusive DIY Walking Tour
Often the best way to explore a new city is on your own two feet. Jeff Mikos, founder of Free Chicago Walking Tours, is no stranger to that idea—the inspiration for his business came from a meaningful international trip. “My wife and I took a year off to travel the world in 2015,” he says. “While in South America we stumbled upon free walking tours in almost all the major cities, including Santiago, Cusco, Quito, Cartagena, and La Paz. After the first few, I began to think that there was an opportunity to bring this style of tour to the USA. Having grown up in here, launching the business in Chicago made perfect sense.” Free Chicago Walking Tours offers guided strolls seven days a week, and covers two miles over two hours, including iconic areas like the Loop, Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile, and Lincoln Park. “This makes the city accessible to anyone, regardless of their budget,” Mikos says. “Chicago can be quite expensive, and our tours give guests the opportunity to experience the city like they never have before, while saving a few bucks too.” To give Budget Travel readers a taste of the company, Mikos shared a special stroll just for us. Print it out, then, get ready...get set...get walking! The Budget DIY Magnificent Mile Walking Tour: Michigan Avenue—a.k.a. the Magnificent Mile—is Chicago’s largest shopping district and second in the USA only to New York City’s Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. But you don't need to spend money to enjoy yourself on this famous strip. In fact, we think the best way to experience the splendor that is Magnificent Mile isn’t by shopping at all of the stores along the way, but hitting lesser-known destinations, such as a rotating gallery, a gorgeous church, and being face-to-face with artifacts from the world’s most famous and historically significant sites. The best part? It’s all free. Starting Point: The awning of the Drake Hotel on Lake Shore Drive just east of the corner of Michigan Avenue. We like starting here for a variety of reasons. The Drake Hotel was essentially the city's first “resort." In the 1920s, this was an escape for Chicagoans as it sat on the shores of Lake Michigan. Today you can still live like a 1920s socialite by visiting their Palm Court for afternoon teatime (not really budget-friendly, but quite nice for $45 per adult, open daily from 1 to 5 p.m.). The road you’re on, Lake Shore Drive, is home to some of Chicago’s most expensive real estate, and for good reason: those unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and access to Oak Street Beach. The road changes name west of Michigan Avenue to Oak Street, which is home to some of Chicago’s most exclusive boutiques and high-end shopping. Stop No. 2: The corner of Delaware Place and Michigan Avenue. Sitting on the corner is the Fourth Presbyterian Church. The church is a product of combining two other churches on October 8, 1871. Unfortunately, the next day was the start of the Great Chicago Fire, and the church was destroyed. It was rebuilt and relocated to its current spot in 1940. The best place to snap a breathtaking Instagram is across the street (on the east side of Michigan Avenue) or from inside. The church is open daily at 7:30 a.m. Please respect the congregation with your noise level. Stop No. 3: The John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan Avenue. You'll be right across the street from the John Hancock (or right in front of it). It’s officially called the John Hancock Center because the original plan was to have multiple buildings. However, the builders couldn't convince the owners of the Casino Club (located directly behind the JHC on Delaware) to sell their property, and thus we have only one building. The John Hancock Center is home to the 360-degree Chicago Observation Deck, located on the 94th floor. Some say it has the best views of Chicago. We don't disagree with that, but we do disagree a little with the $20 price tag to get there. Instead go up two more floors to the 96th floor and visit the John Hancock Signature Lounge. The views are free and incredible as well, plus you'll get to enjoy a tasty cocktail too. Stop No. 4: Water Works Cultural Center, 163 E. Pearson Street (corner of Michigan and Pearson). This spot is often overlooked because many don't know a.) what's in the building and b.) that it’s open to the public. The visit will be quick and cool. This is the new and functioning home to Chicago’s water pumps (well, four of them). Inside, along with water pumps, you will find a variety of helpful guides to answer questions. Stop No. 5: The Famous Chicago Water Tower, 806 N Michigan Avenue. This is the famous Chicago Water Tower that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (one of only a handful of buildings north of the Chicago River that remain today). The gorgeous building is a symbol of Chicago’s recovery from the fire. It has undergone a couple of renovations since the 1870s and is now home to a rotating—and free—gallery. Make sure you stop in to see what's showing when you visit. Stop No. 6: A leisurely stroll south down Michigan Avenue. Your final destination will be the Tribune Tower near the south end of the street by the river. This is by far the biggest stretch (1/2 mile) of walking that you will do on this DIY Magnificent Mile Walking Tour. Soak in the sights and the sounds. You’re in the thick of what Michigan Avenue is known for: shopping. The rents here for stores are incredible, at more than $500 per square foot per year. Many stores on this strip don't make money; they are there for branding and marketing purposes. Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel, the largest Disney store in America, and the Warwick Allerton Hotel all call the Magnificent Mile home. The Warwick was home to the Tip Tap Room, a lounge on the 23rd floor of the hotel that made a name for itself with its signature drink: the Moscow Mule. Final Destination: The Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Avenue. This is one of our favorite buildings in the city. The Tribune Tower is beautiful. It has a storied history and is home to many real artifacts from sites all around the globe. The building is the result of when the Chicago Tribune (the largest Chicago newspaper) hosted a contest in 1922 to design the most beautiful office building in the world. $100,000 of prize money was available, and the winner would receive $50,000 of that. Over 50 entries were received, and the neo-Gothic design you’re looking at today was the winner, from a small architecture firm from New York City called Howells & Hood. When the winner was selected, there were many “experts” that believed other entries should have won. To this day, there are rumors that the contest was fixed, but thus far there is no solid evidence to support that theory. Prior to the construction of the tower, the owner of the Tribune Company, Colonel McCormick, instructed his employees to bring back artifacts from historically important sites from around the world. These artifacts were collected and then incorporated into the building’s exterior. Make sure to take a walk around and see all the pieces the company collected that are now on full display. Where to go from here? Great question. Before you go just anywhere, look across the street. The glazed terra-cotta structure in front of you is the Wrigley Building—one of our favorites. The clock on the south tower is almost 20 feet in diameter! Just another 0.7 miles south along Michigan Avenue is the entrance to Millennium Park and Cloud Gate, a.k.a. the Bean, artist Anish Kapoor's first public outdoor work. Have your camera out to capture your reflection in its surface. Another half mile south from the Bean is Buckingham Fountain. If you need a break from walking, you’re just a few steps from the most photographed bridge in Chicago: the Du Sable Bridge, named after the first known settler of the region. The American flag, Illinois State flag, and Chicago flag blowing in the wind alongside the buildings on the Mag Mile are a popular photograph. With the money you have saved on this DIY walking tour, you can afford to purchase a ticket to the Chicago Big Bus hop-on, hop-off bus, which departs just north of the bridge on the east side of Michigan Avenue. Or take an architectural boat tour that boards right at the bridge as well. All of the companies will have representatives vying for your business and should cost $30 to $45 per person.
These Eco-Friendly Airports Are Inspiring a Green Revolution
Our friends at Cheapflights.com are celebrating Earth Day 2016 with a story by Toronto-based travel writer Jessica Padykula (@JessPadykula) spotlighting “eco-innovating” airports from around the world. Here are some of the airports that are leading the way in sustainability: Changi International Airport in Singapore is considered an overall top airport experience by savvy travelers, and it leads the way in eco-friendliness too. Here you’ll find more than 900 skylights (which cut down on electricity for lighting), indoor gardens, rainwater harvesting, and even a butterfly garden and a nature trail. Pearson International Airport in Toronto is pioneering a cool new mode of sustainability by introducing a honeybee apiary to help support food security and farming in the area surrounding the airport. San Francisco International Airport has bragging rights to the U.S.’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification for its Terminal 2. More than 90 percent of the terminal’s construction and demolition waste was recycled, the airport planted more than 2,000 trees to reduce CO2 emissions by 120 tons per year, and water usage has gone down by more than 57 million gallons per year. East Midlands Airport in the U.K. installed two commercial-scale wind turbines, producing 5 percent of the airport’s electricity, and since 2012 the airport has been achieving “carbon-neutral” ground operations. Denver International Airport has installed four solar arrays, bringing its total solar capacity to 10 megawatts, the most of any American airport and enough electricity to power more than 2,000 homes each year.
29 Reasons We Love Belgium
Belgium pops off the map, alive with modern, artistic lodgings, unconventional museums, and beloved regional food and beer. During a 10-day trip through Brussels and Wallonia, I made sure to hit the most popular travel sites, including Waterloo, Bastogne, and Brussels, but I also made a point to stray from the traditional spots…and I was glad I did. Ready for a grand tour? Here are 29-plus reasons you’ll love Belgium as much as I did. Brussels: Chocolate, waffles, and…beer! Brussels is the home of the European Union and a truly international city. The beautiful Grand-Place and infamous Manneken Pis are must-sees, but for a different perspective, take a bike tour with Pro Velo; it’s a unique way to admire the city’s diverse architecture and chat up a local (provelo.org). My guide, Riet Naessens, gave me a tour focused on the city’s art deco and art nouveau architecture through burgeoning and luxurious neighborhoods I might not have reached on my own. We passed by designs by some of art nouveau’s most famous architects, Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Stunning glasswork by artist Ernest Delune at Rue du Lac 6, often seen in art history textbooks, was a highlight, as was the Horta Museum, a World Heritage Site. Pro Velo also offers a popular Beer and Breweries tour, which I’d warn beginning bikers against for obvious reasons. Ingesting and investing in some chocolate while touring Brussels is crucial for any visit. Laurent Gerbaud has some outstanding chocolates, many mixed with tart and sweet dried and candied fruits (chocolatsgerbaud.be). Gerbaud’s interactive workshops offer students the opportunity to make and taste their own concoctions. His shop also has a café, so take a seat and enjoy the full chocolate experience. It’s close enough to do some oh-so-convenient chocolate shop–hopping at Place du Grand Sablon, where many of Belgium’s top chocolatiers have stores. For another sweet Brussels fix, walk a few feet from the popular naked Manneken Pis statue to feast on a Brussels-style waffle with chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries at the Waffle Factory (wafflefactory.com). When in Brussels… Next up: a trip to the Atomium, a bizarre remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, which might be the very definition of interesting and offbeat. This structure symbolizes an iron crystal expanded 165 billion times and houses an exhibition space. Nearby is another weird find, Mini-Europe, where you can walk among famous European monuments in miniature, including Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower (minieurope.com). Kids are the perfect audience for Mini-Europe—as are adults on the hunt for funny Instagram photos. Dinant: Paddle through town and discover a new way to make music. The fairytale-like setting that makes up Dinant is marked by a grand 13th-century church on the banks of the Meuse River, backed by an imposing high cliff where the Citadel rests. To take in nature, go kayaking on the nearby Lesse River with Olivier Pitance of Dinant Adventures (dinant-evasion.be). Small rapids turn to quiet currents and revert back again as you paddle and float by rock outcroppings, lush forests, and medieval castles. In town, don’t miss the House of Pataphony, where you can expand your mind making music with everyday objects you wouldn’t normally think to “play,” from a chandelier made of cutlery to antique keys (pataphonie.be). The wildly inventive museum was dreamed up by instrument maker Max Vandervorst. It makes sense that it’s located in Dinant, the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. You can visit his home, now a small interactive museum (sax.dinant.be). Stay nearby in a castle at La Saisonneraie (from about $168 per night, lasaisonneraie.be), a former château in Falaën that tempts guests with exceptional croissants for breakfast. Liège: Forward-thinking art and cuisine, plus Belgium’s biggest market. If you’re looking to do all of this and still take a breath, you’ll want to stay in Brussels for few days. The chic Hilton Brussels Grand Place is well situated for guests to comfortably take on the city by foot (from about $245 per night, hilton.com). Start your morning trying Liège waffles at the best place in town, Maison Massin (Rue Puits-en-sock, 6-8- 4020 Liège). It’s where the locals get their waffles. Choose from traditional Liège waffles, sugary, chewy waffles that are ovular and unevenly shaped, or more embellished versions such as grilled strawberry or rhubarb. Sunday is market day in Liège, and whatever you’re craving or coveting, you’ll find it at La Batte, the oldest and largest market in Belgium. Local produce, cheese, fish, clothing, and books are all ripe for the picking at this riverside shopping mecca (liege.be). From the market, walk to Curtius Brasserie to sample Belgian craft beers (lacurtius.com). En route, you’ll want to snap a photo of the Mount Bueren stairs, an epic 374-step staircase located just beside “Brasserie C.” Once inside the beer hall, there’s an exciting energy. Started by young entrepreneurs, this Belgian brewery is housed in a former monastery. You can take a tour of the production area and pair cheese or meatballs with beer on the lovely outdoor terrace. Avant-garde art lovers, your new haunt is the Cité Miroir, an unusual cultural venue (citemiroir.be). Exhibitions are held in a 1930s building once home to public baths and a swimming pool: The remnants of still remain—works of art in themselves. Locals may tell you they learned to swim there. For dinner in Liège, you have to try boulet, a traditional beef-and-pork meatball that’s highly popular in the region. One of the best places to feast on boulet is Amon Nanesse, where large meatballs are served up in sweet sauce consisting of a mixture of pears and apple syrup, wine, onions, and peket, a local spirit (maisondupeket.be). Naturally, boulet is best complemented with a heaping helping of crispy fries. I had a boulet connoisseur introduce me to this filling dish: Sebastien Laviolette, from la Confrérie du Gay Boulet, is part of a guild of folks who make it their mission to secretly taste test meatballs at restaurants throughout the region and rate the best. Many of these Liège attractions are reachable on foot from both the historical center and boutique Hotel Neuvice, where 10 contemporary rooms surround an open-air patio (from about $109 per night, hotelneuvice.be). Mons: This culture capital invites. Mons is a university town with cool street art, museums, restaurants, and European charm—so much of it, in fact, that it was named the 2015 European Culture Capital. In the lively Grand-Place, pet the somewhat-freaky brass monkey statue for good luck before entering the Town Hall, Hôtel de Ville. Ascend the stairs of the 15th-century structure to take in the views of the striking square with its myriad architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to neoclassical. Inside Town Hall, admire gilded carvings and ornate tapestries, a gift to the town from France’s Louis XIV. Climb up higher, past the city’s historic brick homes, to Parc du Château, Mons’s highest point, where the magnificent belfry is located. The only baroque-style belfry in Belgium, the belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an exceptional place for photos. Next, walk down to the Saint Waudru Collegiate Church to see its exquisite stained glass windows and 18th-century golden carriage used in the annual celebration of the saint (waudru.be). Mons has several museums worth seeing, including BAM, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the fascinatingly bizarre, recently renovated Mundaneum, which contains a massive collection of photos, newspapers, posters, and books from Belgian philanthropist Paul Otlet, who spent nearly 50 years compiling every noteworthy piece of human thought ever published or recorded (mundaneum.org). Talk about a huge undertaking. Called a printed precursor to the internet and social networking, the museum has a partnership with Google. After all that cerebral reflection, grab a drink at La Cervoise, where there’s a dizzying array of more than 150 beers to choose from (32/65-35-15-25). Carnivores may stay to cook a steak on a stone, the most notable entrée at this Belgian beer hall. Others may wish to snag a table outside at Ces Belges et Vous, in Grand-Place, to take in the ambience of this historic square while feasting on traditional Belgian cuisine (cesbelges.be). One of my favorite hotels from my Belgium travels is Hotel Dream, in Mons. Nestled in the historic center, the hotel is in easy walking distance of Grand-Place—key since parking can be a hot commodity. The building is a former convent and chapel, so stained-glass windows and high ceilings are sprinkled in amid modern design and graffiti art (from about $103 per night, dream-mons.be). Durbuy: Europe’s coolest small city? You decide. One of Durbuy’s claims to fame is its title of “smallest city in the world”—or at least it used to be. The exact wording might be lost in translation, because they also had “smallest town” emblazoned in several spots. How it’s defined, I’m not so sure, but I’m chalking it up to another of the city’s endearing idiosyncrasies. Durbuy is a charming combination of cobblestoned medieval streets, historic sights, and lovely shops. There’s a local count here who still lives in a castle overlooking the town and the Durbuy Topiary Park (topiaires.durbuy.be). Billing itself as the “largest park in the world devoted to topiary that is accessible for the public” (that’s quite the moniker), there are more than 250 plants, some more than a century old. Stroll through these green sculptures, and you may recognize some of the shapelier box trees, including a larger-than-life topiary of Pamela Anderson on the beach, Manneken Pis from Brussels, jumping jockeys, ducklings, elephants, and several other creatures great and small. Shop in La Vraie Confiture du Durbuy for local artisanal jams and sweets for your friends (and yourself), then grab a traditional unfiltered amber brew at Marckloff Brewery, where beer is produced in small batches on site (confitureriesaintamour.be). Stay one or more nights right in town at Le Sanglier des Ardennes, a modern hotel overlooking the Ourthe River that serves a fabulous breakfast (from about $90 per night, sanglier-des-ardennes.be).